For more than six years, Canadian auto buyers could do nothing more than count Scions while on vacation in the United States or, at best, personally import a car. Scion sales began in the United States in 2003 and swelled to 173,034 units in 2006. Toyota Canada didn’t begin offering Scions until late 2010. Sales perked up in 2012 to 5783 units.
But Scion sales fell 14% overall in Canada in 2013, and that includes a 31% drop in the final four months of the year. Through the first third of 2014, Scion volume is down 21% in a market that’s selling new vehicles at a record pace. In each of the last eight months, Scion sales have fallen when compared with the previous year.
The decreases haven’t been slight either: 17% in September 2013, 25% in October, 25% in November, 57% in December, and 32%, 19%, 30%, and 9% in the four completed 2014 months.
Shouldn’t we have seen this coming? Americans were increasingly rejecting the idea of Scion in the lead-up to the brand’s introduction in Canada. Admittedly, the U.S. market collapsed in 2009, but the Scion brand’s 49% decrease far outstripped the market’s 21% drop. Moreover, Scion sales had already been falling before that point, dropping 25% in 2007 and 13% in 2008. In the nine months in 2010 before Scion’s Canadian introduction, U.S. sales were down 30%.
Canadians were nevertheless excited to be given an opportunity to own something they couldn’t previously. The grass is always greener on the other side.
At least until the same blend of seed is spread on your lawn.
Even when Canadian Scion sales reached their annual peaks in June 2011 and June 2012, these weren’t exactly common cars. In June 2011, Scion sold 598 cars; Mini sold 652. A year later, Scion sold 807 cars; Fiat sold 839.
Nevertheless, we thought Toyota had found Scion’s saviour in the form of the FR-S, an enthusiast-oriented machine with true sports car bona fides. Scion sold 935 copies of their new sports car in its first three months, good for 46% of Scion’s total Canadian volume during that period.
Reliance on a rear-wheel-drive sports car with a scarcely usable rear seat isn’t a foolproof method for Canadian success though. Unfortunately, Scion’s four other models have not generated the necessary level of desirability in Canada. The tC, for example, is currently selling once for every 3.6 Hyundai Velosters. Kia Soul sales are nearly ten times stronger than the combined sales of Scion’s xB and xD. And finally, Canadian Smart Fortwo volume is 276 times stronger than that of the Scion iQ. In each of the last 16 months, iQ sales have fallen, year-over-year.
The FR-S continues to be the brand’s top seller, but the brand’s top seller is also down 30% in 2014.
Far more troublesome than Scion’s low sales totals is the fact that they are progressively lowering. And of greater concern than the Canadian division’s losses are the decreased sales reported by Scion in the much larger American market, where it all started.
Scion’s 10% year-over-year decline over the last four months means Toyota has only sold 19,843 Scions in 2014, or just 0.4% of all the new vehicles sold. That’s less than half the market share Scion enjoyed in 2006, when the model lineup consisted of just three cars, not five.